Oahu visitor attractions counting down days until tourism restart

The Polynesian Cultural Center in Laie has remained closed for about four months.
The Polynesian Cultural Center in Laie has remained closed for about four months.(Polynesian Cultural Center)
Published: Jul. 6, 2020 at 6:14 PM HST
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NORTH SHORE, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - With changes to traveler quarantine rules less than a month away, Hawaii’s visitor attractions are eager to welcome guests back.

Oahu's North Shore destinations are coping with the drastic drop in tourists in different ways.

Waimea Valley was closed for 11 weeks before reopening to guests about a month ago. The park used to average more than 1,000 people a day, but now that number is down to about 300 guests checking out the botanical gardens, historical sites, and waterfall.

New signs are up reminding visitors to wear masks and follow social distancing guidelines. Protective barriers have been installed, and there are hand sanitizing stations.

Even with the changes, the non-profit group insists the scenic valley still provides a relaxing experience.

"People need a little bit of peace and tranquility right now and a little bit of healing, and that's the place to go to get all of that," said executive director Richard Pezzulo.

But he admits that the huge drop in visitors is discouraging for the non-profit group. About 20 of the roughly 70 employees remain furloughed.

Even with Paycheck Protection Program money and a reserve fund, Waimea Valley is looking for survival strategies to cope with the loss of revenue from admissions and community events.

"We think we're going to have to rely on building the kamaaina market for at least two or three more months, even if they open up tourism August 1, I don't see a lot of people jumping on airplanes," Pezzulo said.

Another non-profit organization, the Polynesian Cultural Center, temporarily shut down about four months ago.

The 42-acre attraction in Laie usually draws 1.2 million visitors each year.

"It's hard to be closed and not do what we love to every day. There's nobody to perform for," said chief marketing officer Eric Workman. "It's very difficult and hard to keep the spirits of our people up."

Workman said several hundred employees had to be furloughed.

PCC's Hukilau Marketplace, with restaurants, food trucks, and shops, reopened last month with new safety protocols.

The center hopes to allow visitors to return on August 31.

“(We’re) expecting it to be probably quite slow for many months,” said Workman. “It’s going to be quite a stretch for us, a challenge.”

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